Travel Editor Lydia Don shines the spotlight on Glasgow, suggesting it is on par with Scotland’s capital with its natural beauty and wonderful attractions
As Scotland’s second city, Glasgow once again shows that first isn’t always best. Much like Edinburgh, Glasgow is bursting with life, with its multicultural population to its swathes of historical architecture. However, Glasgow has a much more comforting feel to it – I always feel at home there, which is why I will share my favourite aspects of this incredible city, and the spots you cannot miss.
Arriving in Glasgow
I arrived in Glasgow on a cold Monday afternoon in October. A five hour drive from here in Birmingham to the West End of Glasgow almost became part of the experience. As soon as you cross the border, the scenery becomes more and more picturesque the deeper into Scotland you get. The autumn leaves painting the hills and mountains surrounding the road leading me to my second home reminded me of just how wondrous the Scottish landscape is, no matter the time of year.
I was eager to leave the confines of my hotel (the Leonardo – a bought friendly hotel, though not one you would be excited to spend your time in) and wander around the surrounding area. The houses lining the streets all looked so inviting, and very much reflected Glasgow’s population of incredibly friendly and helpful locals who are immensely proud of their city and take great joy in informing visitors of its great spots.
I stumbled across an Italian restaurant called Nostrana, situated on Hyndland Road, which specialise in hand-stretched pizzas and home-made pasta. The prices were reasonable, especially considering the size and quality of the food served. The atmosphere, too, was cozy and inviting, with the fairy lights, exposed bricks and greenery creating a sophisticated and yet warm feel to the restaurant. As a solo traveller, I felt right at home here.
The First Full Day
The next day I ventured further into the West End to Byers Road, a 30 minute walk from my hotel. Byers Road incorporates charity shops (popular with the large population of students living here), independent boutiques and cafes, as well as famous bars such as Ubiquitous Chip (or ‘The Wee Pub at the Chip’) and The Curlers Pub/Bar.
After walking along the cobbled Ashton Lane, laced with pubs, restaurants and a cinema, I stopped at Cottonrake Cafe. This industrial-feeling, independent cafe at the heart of the West End has everything from hearty, warm ‘full-Scottish’ breakfast to artisan pastries at reasonable prices. After this, I explored Glasgow’s Botanical Gardens, situated at the top end of Byers Road. Bringing the outdoors indoors made for a great experience (and an opportunity to escape the pretty relentless northern downpours that day). The gardens included information throughout about the various statues dating as far back as the 18th century.
The gardens themselves are said to date back to 1817 when Thomas Hopkirk completed his creation of this natural landscape allowing people to escape from city-life despite not leaving the city itself. Hopkirk designed the gardens to encourage education, especially at the University of Glasgow where botany and medicine studies could be aided by the plants within the gardens. It was a bracing and interesting walk also popular with students finding a peaceful place to read, and for artists drawing the gardens for their own pleasure.
The next day I decided to get the train into the centre of Glasgow. I caught the train from Hyndland train station, and it took around 10 minutes to get to Glasgow Central. The transport links here are in abundance, with regular trains heading to the likes of Edinburgh and Aberdeen allowing visitors to explore even more of Scotland if they so wished.
The station was beautiful, and historical with its famous Central Station Clock where, traditionally, lovers meet and part, placed right in the middle of the station. Stepping out of the station, you find yourself on Gordon Street, teaming with shops and highly-rated hotels. Already they were tastefully decorated with Christmas lights and garlands, spreading the festive spirit perhaps slightly too early. However, nobody can dismiss how much the decorations added to the gorgeous buildings that make Glasgow a popular tourist destination all year round. I ate breakfast at La Vita Pizzeria, a local Italian restaurant with stunning views over George Square and the grand Glasgow City Chambers.
After walking the streets and stopping off at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – the home of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – I caught the subway from Buchanan Street to Kelvingrove to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This was by far my favourite part of the trip: I was eager to visit after seeing the museum being one of the sets in the Scottish musical ‘Sunshine on Leith’, and it certainly exceeded my expectations.
Stretched over two floors, Kelvingrove Museum welcomed guests like me into a world of exploration of Scottish history, as well as to knowledge of global explorations, as well as art and artefacts from across the world, including the mesmerising ‘Coronation of the Blessed Virgin’, a stained glass window created by Harry Clarke in 1923 standing as one of the museum’s biggest attractions.
After this I walked along the River Kelvin and then passed through the beautifully historic grounds of the University of Glasgow to then find myself back on Byers Road and firmly in the West End of Glasgow. For dinner, I tried out Ashokas, an Indian restaurant on Ashton Lane well-known in Glasgow for its Pakoras and naan breads. The food was amazing, though I will warn you that one meal can easily be shared between two people!
However, this food certainly energised me for the evening when I attended a cèilidh, a traditional Scottish (and Irish) gathering deriving from the Gaelic word meaning ‘party’. This is where people come together and enjoy barn dancing to Scottish music.
Though you might find the prospect of dancing with strangers quite daunting, the beauty of the cèilidh is that getting the steps wrong is part of the fun! There is no expectation to dance ‘perfectly’, but purely to have fun and enjoy the company! This nicely concluded my trip to Glasgow, and left me feeling truly immersed in the beautiful second city.
So do you need to visit the capital to get the most out of a country? Absolutely not! And if anywhere proves that other, often overlooked, cities are just as fulfilling as the capital city of a given country, it is undoubtedly Glasgow.
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